In our line of work we hear a lot about what inspires people to write. We also hear a lot about when inspiration takes a hike and authors are left with a bad case of writer’s block. I’m pretty sure we all agree that the state of feeling inspired is a wondrous and energizing thing and that feeling devoid of inspiration is tantamount to sitting in a dark room on a sunny day. What is interesting to me is that we agents are seldom asked about what inspires us. Everyone wants to know why we pick the projects we do, sure, but I don’t think anyone has ever accosted me at a conference and asked me what I’m inspired by.
Well, even if you don’t ask, I’ll tell you. Like our clients, we’re inspired by great writing and storytelling, of course (as well as art, music, and drama that makes you sit up and take notice). We’re inspired by people who are able to turn personal pain and suffering into art. By those who can lucidly and entertainingly explain scientific principles and those who write movingly and convincingly about intangibles like faith. Personally, I can find inspiration in everything I’m curious about—from medicine to cocktails, black holes to macramé, steampunk to quiet literary fiction. In every category, a smart, thought provoking, well elucidated book inspires me to seek out more about the subject, or read more of that author’s work, or go out and try to find something similar that will become someone else’s inspiration.
We often tell our clients to find models for their work. Whether it’s a bestselling novel or a piece of contemporary art, someone out there has undoubtedly grappled with some creative problems similar to yours with inspiring results. As agents we take our own advice. We sign up projects because we just saw a play we loved that dealt with a similar topic or because we’re currently wearing out the new Adele CD and want to read the literary equivalent. We digest a newspaper piece that gets us thinking and the next thing you know we’re looking for a writer to shape it into a full-length nonfiction narrative. And so on, ad infinitum.
Lately, I’ve been inspired by Dr. Seuss and Patti Smith. How about you? What’s inspiring you these days?